1. Claude Lemieux
The little spitfire out of Buckingham, Quebec started his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens, winning the Stanley Cup in his rookie season. Lemieux played gritty hockey, getting under the skin of his opponents. His days in Montreal were marked being one of the players with the highest PIMs. Twice, Lemieux helped Les Canadiens make it to the Finals.
Following a move to New Jersey, Lemieux captured a second Cup along with a Conn Smythe Trophy, with 16 points—13 of them goals—in 20 contests.
The next year would cement Lemieux's reputation as a hated player. In Game Six of the 1996 Western Conference Finals, Lemieux, now with the Colorado Avalanche, checked the Detroit Red Wings' Kris Draper into the boards from behind, smashing Draper's face and leaving him in a pool of blood. An all-out brawl ensued, in which Lemieux turtled and refused to fight.
Lemieux's antics didn't go unnoticed—yet the Avalanche went on to beat the Wings, and win the Stanley Cup.
2. Scott Stevens
Using a former New Jersey captain as a hated NHL player may ruffle a few feathers, but believe me, there were those who hated the fiery Devils captain. Stevens, known mostly for his bone-jarring, fear-injecting body checks and neutral-zone impacts to the head, came to be known as the most feared defender in the game.
Stevens was a solid defenseman, yet his style of hitting rubbed many people the wrong way. During Game Seven of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, Stevens lined up concussion-prone Philadelphia Flyer Eric Lindros, who was coming across the blueline with his head down. Stevens sent the 240-pound Lindros crumpling to the ice, giving Lindros yet another concussion.
Feared more than possibly hated, Stevens was a player that indicted hatred and anger in many rival teams' buildings.
3. Sean Avery
Another spitfire—now with the Dallas Stars—Avery combines a somewhat decent offensive game with an annoying gritty style, which involves breaking his opponents verbally. Avery is known to go on and on with his celebrations, beyond the normal fist-pumping actions.
During the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals against the New Jersey Devils, Avery, then with the New York Rangers, screened Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur—not by facing his back to the net, but by standing looking towards Brodeur, waving his arms and his stick in front of Brodeur and the netminder's face.
Because of this annoying tactic, the NHL instituted the "Sean Avery Rule," which states that no player can use the same tactic that Avery used against Brodeur. After the Rangers' series win in Game Five, Brodeur did not shake Avery's hand.
4. Todd Bertuzzi
A great power forward, Bertuzzi's career has been marred by the Steve Moore incident in Vancouver. Ever since suckerpunching Moore from behind and driving Moore's head into the ice in a game against the Colorado Avalanche, Bertuzzi has not managed to get his game back to the same level it was at before.
A rivalry had started between the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche when Moore took a cheap shot at then-Canucks captain Markus Naslund and received no penalty or suspension.
Bertuzzi took exception and wanted to fight Moore, yet opted to suckerpunch him.
In the opinion of many fans that I have heard around the league, Bertuzzi is not at the top of favorite player lists anymore. Now in Calgary with the Flames, expect Avalanche and possibly even Canuck fans to rain down the boos on Big Bert.
5. Eric Lindros
Already mentioned above in the hit that sent Lindros' career packing, Eric Lindros' career was marked by the fact he was going to be "The Next One." Never living up to his full expectation, Lindros was a whiner from the beginning.
Drafted by the struggling Quebec Nordiques, he refused to play for the Nords and was dealt to the Flyers for Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, and others. Lindros' career took off, and he even made a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997. Yet Lindros' behavior on and off the ice was what made many people skeptical.
His constant bickering with team doctors and then-Flyers GM Bobby Clarke settled in Lindros' loss of the captaincy, and eventual exit from the Flyers organization. Lindros played out the rest of his career in New York, Toronto, and Dallas in a fashion that many would not have thought was possible.
Plagued by concussions, Lindros' numbers decreased and fans started to wonder what could have been. Many still don't care much for the former No. 1 draft pick-turned-whiner.
Dave 'Tiger' Williams